Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Confessions of a Christian rebel
You see, I too, "The (In)Scrutable One", am a rebel against society. Caring nothing for what society thinks of me, I submit to only one law, and refuse to bind my conscience to any other law, whether it comes by the word of man or angel. I own no switchblade or leather jacket--not even a motorcycle and I don't have enough hair to slick up, down, or sideways, but I am, my friend, a Christian rebel!
So just what is it that makes me such a menace to society? What is it about me that has made a growing number shrink back from me, fearing the lawlessness that I so boldly espouse? It is simply this: I am a Christian, Elect of God, and as such I am unwilling to bind my conscience to obey any God save God's Law.
What is God's Law? For starters, it's the Ten Commandments, but it's also every moral law found anywhere in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. In fact, the Ten Commandments is a summary of the entirety of God's Law, and that Law may be further summarized in the Two Great Love Commandments: "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength" and "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." As Christ said, in these two commandments are summarized all the Law and Prophets. Although as a Christian I am saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, without any work of the Law, I learn from Scripture that I am obliged to walk in love, and that I do so by obeying God's Commandments. Thus, the Law of God doesn't save me, but it does provide me with my sole and sufficient rule of life.
At this point, you may ask, "So what's so shocking or rebellious about that?" Nothing at all insofar as what the Scriptures teach, because my stand is simply that which is plainly taught in Scripture. However, I have sometimes found that my stand has provoked even people of good character to question my character, to think that I am some kind of rebel against society. But how could they think this? If you were to ask anyone who knows me well, they'd tell you that they find me to be a man of tender conscience, who diligently strives to avoid causing unnecessary offense who all with whom he comes in contact. By God's grace, I am normally a lamb, not a lion.
As I mentioned earlier, God's Law is summarized as love towards God and towards one's neighbor. It is God, not man, who obliges me to treat you in a loving manner. However, only some of the whys and wherefores of brotherly love are set forth in Scripture, and it is only the Scriptural commandments that ought to bind my conscience. All other commandments are at best applications of God's Law. As such, they do not directly bind my conscience. For instance, if God had explicitly commanded all men to maintain a pristine clean-shaven appearance, you could have justly and rightly taken me task for disobeying God's Law, but since He's made no such commandment, I am bound only to obey any such Scriptural commandments that address all aspects of my conduct. Regarding matters that aren't specifically addressed in Scripture, but which pertain to my loving relationship with you, I ought to strive to do what is pleasing to you to the extent that is permissible according to God's Law.
At this point, I would submit that clear and specific violations of God's Law ought to be treated as being far more severe than a violation of my brother's tastes, preferences, or scruples. Although you have every right to bring a matter to my attention when my behavior displeases you, and I ought to be willing to do whatever is in my power to please you so long as doing so doesn't compel me to disobey God's Law, it is unwarranted for you to treat such a matter as being of similar or equal gravity compared with a violation of Scriptural Law. In fact, when my brother or sister offends me regarding any matter that's not explicitly dealt with in Scripture, I ought to strive to address the issue with brotherly kindness and respect, giving every possible benefit of the doubt regarding motives.
The other day, I wrote about how I've often struggled with to be correctly understood in written communication. As I've thought about that issue, it's occurred to me that it is precisely the issue that I've addressed in this article that's caused a number of online misunderstandings. Since I'm a sometimes awkward bachelor, I do sometimes inadvertently cause offense regarding matters of social nicety, and when I do so I most certainly want to make matters right, but when this happens, I'd very much appreciate it if you'd keep in mind that I haven't broken God's Law, so it's really not appropriate for you to talk about how badly I've offended you. Instead, let me know I've displeased you, and I'll be happy to make it right.
So, why do I make such a big deal about this? If I'm going to submit to please you anyway, why make a fuss about it? Simply this: as a Reformed believer, I consider myself to be obliged to obey God in all things. I will allow only His Word to bind my conscience. Although I also submit to the laws of the land, I do so because the Scriptures command me to do so, but I will not obey any commandment of man that would compel me to do what God prohibits or not do what God commands. Thus, it is a matter of conscience for me that the only true law is God's Law.
Having said all that, I hope you can see that my "no law but God's Law" stand isn't really that rebellious after all, for instead of obliging me to obey all sorts of man-made laws (written and unwritten), it obliges me to obey a far higher Law, one that compels me to do right to and for you, both in deed and in attitude. Although my conscience demands that I reject obedience to the rules of men, God's perfect law of love compels me to go far beyond what man requires: to do what is right not out of fear of social reprisal, but in order to please and honor a holy God. This, my friend, is the nature of my rebellion.